I often become uncomfortable when people give me gifts or do things for me because I feel like there is a certain response I am then obliged to present in return. I never know if the giver of the gift or the doer of the favour is expecting this type of response or not, and there have been a few occasions where I was un-emotive about things I had received, and then those around me made it clear through jokes and comments, that this lack of a reaction on my behalf was unexpected and inappropriate. This made me feel ashamed and ungrateful as I had not had a certain positive feeling experience within myself that I was apparently supposed to have.
What I did over time to cope with this dynamic was to fake the positive feeling experience with my sound, my smile and my words - and each time I did this, I felt like I was betraying some part of me, presenting the false front to the gift giver in order to manipulate them into also now having a positive feeling of being appreciated, whatever other rewards as positive experience one might expect when giving a gift.
In my 'Positive Journal' today I was asked to list three big things I am grateful for. Immediately I was struck by an emptiness, a feeling of 'the expectation to feel something I don't actually feel' and the burden to now conjure up some emotion, which often makes me feel like I 'm somehow cheating on myself through betraying myself and what I am actually going through. I thought to myself, "how ungrateful am I? How spoiled must I be to feel such little gratitude for anything at all? So I stopped in order to ask myself, "What is gratitude to me?".
I looked up the word 'gratitude' and found that most definitions in fact did involve invoking some kind of positive feeling, and some kind of giving back in return - which is exactly how I had been unsuccessfully living the word gratitude, where my living of the word means the the 'giving' is never unconditional, because as soon as I live 'gratitude' that means I must now do/be something in return, and if not then the whole thing is a bust and a disappointment. So I see that I had been living the system-accepted, consciousness version of the word gratitude, but I knew within myself that there was more to it than that.
So I took a moment, silenced my mind, and brought through MY experience of 'gratitude' up into my body, and I just sat with it. What came up was not a positive feeling at all - it was as if a bottomless abyss opened up right in the core of me, and I was deeply humbled at the vastness and expansiveness of this space, like falling forever, knowing there is nothing I could ever do to fill this space or close it up - that an attempt to repay or match the things I am grateful for would be so futile and silly, like trying to fill the ocean with a teaspoon - and yet within it all was also a deep and profound sense of shame.
As I sat with this, an image of my family popped into my head. I was reminded of the process of forgiveness and self-forgiveness I had walked over the years using the Desteni tools in relation to my family, wherein I worked on releasing the emotional points I had been holding in place since I was very young. This means, not only forgiving the family member, but also forgiving myself mostly in terms of the role I played in the creation and holding on to the point, keeping it in place not only for myself, but for everyone.
What had emerged afterwards in working with this family-point was again a deep sense of shame and humility, as I could then more clearly see not only the sacrifice my parents went through to raise me, put a roof over my head, feed me, send me to school, take care of my health, my teeth, etc... but also how they had consistently over time, been there for me, even when they didn't necessarily agree with the paths I had chosen. I always felt so secure in knowing that, no matter what happened in my life, I would have a warm bed to sleep in and a meal to eat in my parent's home, so secure in fact, that it never even occurred to me that it could be any other way, and so I never even explored being grateful for it.
From this new position came 'appreciation' - which is a recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something, as well as a full understanding of a situation. After having walked a process of self-forgiveness, and within that also forgiving others, I was able to more clearly understand the entire situation, and recognize and enjoy those qualities in my parents that they lived in order to bring up a family and a daughter in this world, giving me a foundation from which to stand.
The next step I took in walking this process of forgiveness/self-forgiveness leading to gratitude towards my parents, was to express it to them, tell them about it, let them know what I see and how I experience it. Not in a big emotional show or display of affection, but in normal, natural moments when it would come up in me in moments spent with them, or maybe in a card, or over the phone. Not all at once, but bit-by-bit, over time, taking my time with each piece, carefully forming it within myself, wherein it then became easily articulated it in moments of opportunity, where it was so unconditional, so natural, easy and flowing, that they may not have even recognized it as gratitude until later upon reflection, that is, if it even occurred to them to reflect upon it! But that doesn't even matter, because I was speaking unconditionally something that was already whole within myself, that didn't require recognition or validation from another to complete. I think the sharing of gratitude is important, because oftentimes when people do not take the time to recognize, appreciate and live gratitude towards people in their lives, or don't speak or express it, often live with great regret if that person leaves their lives or passes away.
So builds my living definition of the word 'grateful', now with the words: 'humility' and 'recognition', 'unconditional', 'appreciation', 'enjoyment', 'sharing' and even, maybe surprisingly: 'shame'.
And so, my living re-definition of 'Gratitude' is:
To humbly and unconditionally recognize and share the appreciation and enjoyment in relation to the act of giving and/or receiving. With 'shame' acting as that reminder of how little gratitude and unconditional giving/receiving actually exists in this world and within ourselves, even towards ourselves. Until that time where unconditional living exists, for me personally, I will always be reminded of my own shame, using it constructively to support me in my personal process of change.
In terms of what I wrote in my journal for the three big things I am most grateful for, after having re-defined the living word, here it is:
I am grateful for my family and everything they have done to support me to be able to be here.
I am grateful for the fact the Desteni exists, and to everything and everyone that made/makes it possible.
I am grateful for the Physical/Life/the Animals/Mother Nature/the Sky for being Here unconditionally, and for standing for and as Life.